Cool Cemeteries: Visiting "Cities of the Dead"

October 20 2009 by Matthew Clyde
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Cemetery-wr.jpgThis may seem like a strange post for a travel blog, but with Halloween season upon us I thought it would make for an interesting travel idea.

I spent some time visiting a friend in Pittsburgh this year. During my stay, she mentioned that she had the perfect not-so-popular tourist destination that she knew I'd love. Intrigued and happy to have my own personal tour guide around a new city, I asked where we were going. She said, "A cemetery." My reaction was to ask if she knew someone buried there. "No," she replied. I asked if someone famous was buried there. Perhaps Pittsburgh's own, Andy Warhol or Perry Como? "No, it's just a cool cemetery." A cool cemetery? Now, my friend is a bit eccentric, so this didn't surprise me. What did surprise me is Allegheny Cemetery. I had never seen anything quite like it.

I didn't want to leave. I spent hours walking around, taking pictures, reading epitaphs and peeking inside the stained glass windows of mausoleums. Creepy, you say? Understandably, many people are not interested in visiting "cities of the dead." However, the intricate tombstone carvings, elaborate mausoleums, perfectly hand-crafted sculptures and stunning landscape gave me the experience similar to that of visiting a museum. In fact, I found it relaxing, peaceful and fascinating. Maybe it's a little morbid, but there's something calming about being in these artistic sanctuaries surrounded by centuries-old walls, gates and headstones.

Since my trip to Allegheny, I've decided to visit the most unique, beautiful and interesting cemeteries in the US. Here are a few you should plan to check out on your next vacation:

Mount Auburn Cemetery
Mount Auburn Cemetery is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts and was founded in 1831. The 174 acres was considered 'America's first garden cemetery' and is well-known for being an arboretum that holds over 5,500 trees. This location has been voted as one of the top cemeteries in the world.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
Probably the most famous graveyard on this list, the St. Louis Cemeteries are actually three historic cemeteries located in New Orleans. The most popular is the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Opened in 1789, it is the oldest burial ground in the city. Several tour groups offer cemetery tours to St. Louis where you'll see the tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau and other prominent New Orleanians. However, the most unique feature of this resting place is the cemetery covers one square block, but includes over 100,000 gravesites.

Hartsdale Pet Cemetery
Hartsdale is America's first burial ground created for cats and dogs located in Hartsdale, New York. Founded in 1896, the most interesting aspects of this particular cemetery are the many epitaphs owners have written in memory of their beloved pets. Epitaphs like "Born a dog, died a gentleman" can make anyone smile inside this graveyard. Hartsdale is the serene, hillside resting place for over 70,000 pets.

Each cemetery has its own unique look, feel and landscape. Even more fascinating is the unique history within each cemetery. From resting places that include casualties of the Revolutionary War, to Southwestern burial sites of gunfighters, to cemeteries that are extravagant botanical gardens that just happen to be inhabited by the dead. Eerie or not, they are some of the most relaxing and thought provoking places I've ever been.

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    By Karla Alvord on October 21, 2009 7:21 PM

    Many visitors to New York go to the beautiful Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. In 1860, it was attracting 500,000 visitors a year! Today it's a National Historic Landmark. This is a must-see for those who have already checked out some of the more usual sites around Manhattan.

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